Sony HMP-A1 HD Multiplayer

A few weeks ago, Sony released a supposed iPod killer in their VAIO Pocket unit. I originally intended to put this on the droolworthy list but despite it’s cool design and cool features (like direct connection to digital cameras and the color screen) its proprietary nature turned me off. The fact that the device could not play MP3s without being converted to ATRAC basically made the device useless to most people. The need to transcode already heavily compressed music only makes for bad sounding music.

Oddly enough, Sony has released a new product which i think is the “real” iPod killer. Enter the Sony HMP-A1 Hard Disk Multiplayer. I am baffled by this as it basically competes against their VAIO Pocket device even though it’s considerably more expensive. It’s classic Sony…different companies within the company competing against each other. If it’s not an iPod killer it certainly seems like a VAIO Pocket killer.


To be fair, it’s marketed more of a video player as it has the following specifications:

- 20GB Hard Disk
- 3.5” Color LCD @ 320x240 resolution
- MPEG-4, MPEG-2, MPEG-1, MP3, WAV, JPEG (Stills)
- 129.6 x 75.6 x 22 mm (L x W x D) or (5.1 x 3 x 0.86 inches)
- 250g (8.8 oz)

The unit can be charged via an AC Adapter (2.5 hours charge time) AND it can be charged via USB bus power (7 hours charge time). The device can also be used as a portable USB storage device. The battery life depends on what type of media your using. The following shows the approximate battery life when viewing different kinds of media:

- MPEG-2 content : 4 hours
- MPEG-4 content : 6 hours
- MP3 (128kbps)  : 8 hours

So, it’s actually comparable to the iPod in terms of MP3 playback time but it has the snazzy color screen. It also has AV output so you can share the movies on a TV. The device comes with an AC adapter, a 1.5m AV cable and USB2 cable, headphone, remote control, hand strap, carrying case, manual and software disk.

The device is scheduled to be released June 27th, 2004 in Japan and will retail for 62,790 YEN (~$566).


It’s pricey and much more expensive than the VAIO Pocket unit but at least it supports known standards and it’s a competent video player. The 4-6 hour life for watching video is more than adequate. At half a pound, it is a little on the big side but it’s a decent size for a portable media unit. I’ll be sure to keep my eye on this item on my wishlist and hopefully have a review when I can get my hands on one.

NEC LaVie N Notebook

NEC has released a new 12” somewhat sub-notebook called the LaVie N series. I’m pretty excited about this. The reason is that I’m thinking that 12” is the perfect size for sub-notebooks as it’s the perfect trade-off of size and performance. It’s small enough to be portable but big enough to be pretty usable. Of course, there are 12” models already on the market but most of them aren’t widescreen. Let’s face it…widescreen is the future and it’s inherently much more usable than 4:3 based screens. It also makes DVD viewing much more nice.


The new NEC LaVie N LN500/9DW has the following specifications:

- Pentium M 1.5 Ghz
- 256MB DDR PC2700 Memory Standard (2GB maximum capacity)
- 12.1” Widescreen WXGA 1280x768 “SuperShine” technology for brightness and low reflection
- Integrated Graphics using Intel Extreme Graphics 2(855GME) with up to 64MB of shared graphics.
- 802.11b/g built-in wireless
- 60GB hard disk standard
- Slot loading DVD super multi-drive (DVD-RAM, 2.4x DVD+R/RW, 4x DVD-R/RW)
- Triple memory slot (SD/MS/xD)
- 1 x PC Card slot
- 3 x USB 2.0 ports
- 1 x RJ45, 1 x RJ11
- 1 x IEEE1394 Firewire (4-pin)
- 1 x microphone input
- 1 x headphone output (also used as line output and optical minijack/SPDIF)
- 1 x s-video output
- 1 x VGA output
- Includes an optical mouse
- Includes a stand that with a charge function and a bottom cover that hides the screws and lines and makes the bottom almost all smooth and aesthetically pleasing.
- Standard battery life 4.7 hours (3 hours to fully charge battery)
- 4.4lbs (2.0kg)
- 298 x 199-202 x 37.9 (W x D x H) mm

Ok, there’s a lot to like about this notebook. One of the first thing that jumps out is the Quickstart button which allows you to use DVDs and CDs without starting Windows. Yes, that’s no typo. That’s awesome and looks to be a killer feature.

There are 3 buttons on the top that automatically control the power management abilities. So, you can configure them or leave them be with DVD/Game mode, Music Appreciation mode, and Maximum battery mode.

The screen should be pretty nice in outdoors since NEC has developed pretty good transflective properties on their LCDs. It has a 19mm keyboard pitch so it’s almost full sized keys for comfortable typing.

The system is nice and looks a lot like the Sony TR series but it has a nice Frosty Pearl White finish. It also comes in a Misty Blue Black color. So, it really is a beautiful looking system although the very close styling to the Sony TR. It looks like NEC has developed a nice system with their own touches. It should be interesting to see what other companies release in the 12” range. Hitachi has the Prius series already but we’ll have to see what the larger companies come out with…especially Sony.


For people who read Japanese -

And a 3-D look at the system -

Fujitsu Loox T70H

Fujitsu has finally updated its venerable Loox T line of systems. I’m a huge fan of the Loox T as I was an owner of the original subnotebook that changed the rules by adding an optical drive in a sub 4lb. notebook. The evolution of the Loox T has seen a move from Transmeta to Intel Centrino platforms.


The specs of the new model include the following:

- Intel Pentium M 1.1Ghz (probably the latest ULV type)
- Intel 855GME Chipset (no change here)
- 256MB RAM (Upgradeable to 1GB)
- 80GB Hard Disk Drive Standard
- 1280x768 10.6” Screen (0.18mm dot pitch)
- DVD Multidrive (2x DVD-RAM/R/RW)
- 802.11b/g (probably Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG) Wireless
- PC Card Slot, CF Type I/II Slot, SD/MS Slot
- 56k fax modem/RJ45 networking
- 2 x USB 2.0 and 1 x IEEE1394 (4 pin)
- A new thumb security scanner

Other highlights include a 4800mAh large capacity battery (not standard), the removeable optical drive (for weightsaver or other options), and supposedly a newer brighter screen. The VGA out port and S-Video out ports don’t require dongles anymore. Oddly enough, the specs say the VGA out needs a dongle…but clearly, it doesn’t.

Battery life for the standard battery (2400mAh) is 3.9 hours with the large capacity being rated at 7.8 hours. Furthermore, they claim 11.7 hours with large capacity plus bay battery. That’s about the same as the last generation.

The biggest change is probably the weight decrease. The standard version of the notebook now only weighs 3.02lbs (1.37kg). With large capacity battery, the weight is 3.3lbs (1.49kg). So, it looks like Fujitsu is really targeting the Sony TR with this new release.

More info can be found here.

And, a few more pix of the body of the new system…




Hitachi PriusGear 150H2VPW

Hitachi, a smaller player in the Japanese notebook has released their latest notebook. The PriusGear 150H2VPW. What makes this interesting to me is the 12” Widescreen of 1280x800. There aren’t too many pictures of the device but it looks pretty decent.


The specs are pretty decent. Pentium M 1.5Ghz, up to 768MB (but probably 1GB max), 60GB ATA 100 hard disk, a DVD-R/RW burner, 802.11b/g built-in wireless, and a built-in TV tuner option with hardware based MPEG-2 recording options. Additionally, it has two USB2 ports, modem, LAN, firewire, s-video out, vga out, pc card and cf card slots, and only weighs 1.88kg (or 4.14lbs). Battery life is only rated around 2.6 hours. There is a larger battery option but ther’s no mentioned specifics on how long it will last. The screen is a new high contrast screen that should be comparable to the glossy screens that are becoming popular. The keyboard has a very decent 18mm pitch so travel should be extremely comfortable.

I like the size and weight of this system as I feel it’s the perfect combination of power, size and weight if you don’t need really long battery life. For people who want a more mobile desktop then it’s pretty good with its 1.5Ghz Pentium M (roughly equivalent to a 2.2Ghz Pentium 4 processor). I hope to see competitors release slightly larger models in the 12” range with widescreens. The design isn’t too fancy but it has clean lines. The frame is built using magnesium so it should be fairly strong. I may have to look into this item in the future…it’s definitely intriguing.

Gadgetworthy: Sanyo’s Xacti DMX C1

Sanyo has a pretty cool digital/video camera called the Xacti DMX C1.


This nifty 3.2 Megapixel camera has a 5.8x optical zoom and captures 2048x1536 resolution pictures. The neatest thing about it is the MPEG-4 video captures. The C1 captures full VGA 640x480 resolution at 30 frames per second. There are various quality modes at that resolution. With the largest SD card of 512MB, you can store 21 minutes of highest quality mode video. Lowering the quality to standard quality will get you 1 hour and 21 minutes which isn’t too bad. The unit only weighs 155 grams so it’s pretty light and very pocketable. Battery life is stated at 130 minutes or 60 minutes in movie mode.

I don’t think this thing will ever make it here in the US but there’s always hoping. The use of MPEG-4 allows the camera to get decent amount of clips when you need it. The only thing holding it back is the high price of 512MB SD media…but that’s bound to change in the near future.

More information can be found at Sanyo’s Xacti DMX site.

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